by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND COUNTY--It's the beginning of a new era. The new Midland County courthouse opened for business on Monday and there's quite a bit of difference from before to after.
The old courthouse has not been vacant since the 1930's. Midland County Judge Mike Bradford jokingly says, when they were cleaning out to get ready for the move, they found everything but Jimmy Hoffa.
According to Judge Bradford, one of the things that sets the new courthouse apart from the old, is the cutting edge design that went into it, "This building is not just built for today. It's built for the future."
The first thing you'll notice, when you walk in the main doors, is the giant Midland County seal in the foyer, something distinctly new to the new courthouse. A central jury room on the first floor, holds 302 perspective jurors and can also be used as a courtroom and other things, with some minor modifications.
"This has the ability to change, literally, in a couple of hours, into another service. It will also serve as a public meeting room, should you need one," Bradford explained.
There are court rooms on every floor from the 6th on up. They're called cookie cutter courtrooms, since they're set up identically. The jury boxes have room for 12 jurors and 2 alternates. The court reporter's table is portable and there's extra room for more attorneys.
The sunlight, coming through the countless windows, combines with the furnishings to provide a more relaxed, stress-free atmosphere for attorneys, clients and anybody attending a trial or hearing.
"You will see what we learned from the Centers for Court Security. You try to treat people with a better atmosphere. You try to treat people with a better attitude. You try to respect them every way you can," Bradford said
In case you don't notice when you pull into the parking lot, there actually is a parking lot. The Midland County Courthouse has gone from 31 to 554 public parking spaces.
Off all the new features, Judge Bradford couldn't wait to say which two are the best, "It's paid for and there was no tax levied to do it and no bonded indebtedness."
According to the Texas Association of Counties, to their knowledge, no other courthouse has been paid for, before it was built.
The old building will stay vacant for about a year while they clean and evaluate any needed repairs and then decide who's going to move in next.